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Monday, December 13, 2010

ROUND ROBIN: SANCTUARY HOLIDAY

ED NOTE:    Santa Byrnes has started us off on this Holiday Round Robin.  Please  read her post AND Read ALL the comments for new twists to the story.  THEN add your twist to the story.  Let's keep it going! ---mcf




Brenda stared blankly ahead, her forehead pressed against the cool glass of the bay window in her office.

“Is that what you’ve come up with for the event banner?” Sammi, Brenda’s assistant stared, hands on her hips, at the taped together banner above the arch of Brenda’s office.

The Great Council Would Like to Wish All Inhabitants of Sanctuary Ridge a Very Happy Post-Apocalyptic Holiday To All

“Do you think it’s too much?”

“Too much for a post–apocalyptic world? No, not at all. Too much for the Chamber of Commerce WinterFest? Ah, YAY!”

“I am drawing a blank here, Sam. It’s the same every single year. Same ol’ cardboard food. Same ol’ speeches a snooze alarm couldn’t rouse.” Brenda groused slumping back into her chair. “There’s got to be something we could shake up the event with. Attract more people. Really raise some serious money for the town.”

“We should have an auction. You know, like that show on public television, “One Man’s Junk/Another’s Treasure”. Folks can bring in stuff they find around the house and have their neighbors bid on them.”

“I don’t know. What else can we do?”

‘…Glory days. Glory dayyysss.’

“Tom, quit making that racket!”, Sam teased.

“Racket? I’ll have you know I was the champion of Battle of the Bands.”

Brenda stiffened in her seat.

Tom. As if this day couldn’t get any worse, she always seemed to have the president of the Chamber breathing down her neck –and never anyone else’s - about one thing or another. He’d have a field day if he learned she was having such a tough time getting this particular event together.

She sprang up to tear down her faux banner and ran head on into six foot four inches of vexed male.

“Um, what the hell have you been doing?”

7 comments:

  1. Brenda shoved the giant wad of banner behind her back and tried to appear unaffected.

    “I’ve been working, what does it look like I’ve been doing?” Why did the man have to be so tall? And smell so good? She stopped herself before taking a deep breath.

    “If the large ball of paper behind your back is any indication, I’d say still not getting anywhere with the festival.” Tom stepped closer, bringing his body heat with him, and Brenda escaped behind her desk.

    A cowardly thing to do, but her survival instincts were running high.

    “I have it completely under control.” A slight exaggeration perhaps. “We’re just still running through the ideas. All good ideas,” she threw in for good measure. “We’ll have it narrowed down by the end of the day.”

    Brenda heard Sammi’s gasp but held Tom’s gaze. With one brow lifted, she hoped her face read confidence instead of panic.

    “Good,” Tom said. “Then you can tell me about it over dinner.”

    “Dinner?” Brenda’s voice squeaked and she cleared her throat before trying again. “What dinner?”

    “The dinner we’ll be having tonight at Giuseppe’s.” Tom slid his hands in his pockets and rocked back on his heels. “The mayor wants the details so I told him we’d meet him at six. Unless you don’t think you’ll be ready.”

    A challenge. Damn it, Brenda never could back down from a challenge. And she’d bet her Mont Blanc pen Tom knew it.

    Dropping into the leather chair behind her, Brenda crossed her arms. “I’ll see you at six then. Now, if you’ll excuse us, we have work to do.” As if dismissing him from her royal presence, Brenda went back to shuffling papers on her desk. Blank papers.

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  2. “Great! I look forward to hearing your ideas.” Tom’s pleased grin said she’d reacted just as he expected. He walked out with his usual I-rule-the-world stride. As usual, Brenda fought back a desire to throw something at him. Something sharp or something smelly and squishy. She didn’t have time to fantasize about rotten tomatoes decorating an arrogant back. She had seven hours to dream up something that would leave the mayor drinking to her brilliance and Tom Bainbridge speechless for once.

    The only problem was that her dream button seemed to be jammed on off. But admitting defeat in front of Tom would be a nightmare. “Dream, dream, dr-e-e-eam,” Brenda hummed. Now where—wait a minute. Dream—winter—winter dream.

    Brenda grabbed her assistant’s arm. “Auction. You said “auction.”

    “Yeah, you know “One Man’s Junk—”

    “No, no,” Brenda interrupted Sammi impatiently. “Junk’s not sexy. We need something sexy to raise the big money. We’ll have our own bachelor auction. A Winter Dreams Auction. New York City and San Francisco have raised tons of money doing this. Why can’t we?”

    “Um, Sanctuary Ridge is not exactly in the same league as NYC, boss.” Sammi didn’t bother to hide her skepticism. “And our supply of bachelors is limited, as you should know. Somehow I can’t see anyone bidding a four figure sum on Connor the CPA.”

    Brenda ignored the dig at her most recent bad date. “How much would Charlene Haver bid on Tom?”

    “She’d probably bankrupt Daddy Dear. She’s been chasing Tom since high school, but Tom would never. . . ”

    “Oh, yes, he would. Tom wouldn’t dare say no with the mayor sitting right there. The mayor will love it because the press will love it.”

    “You could ask Brad Lawson. He’s really good about helping out his hometown, and he’s close to famous after that win at the Honda Classic. Then there’s Rick Sullivan, the new CEO of Boyle’s.” Sammi was becoming more enthusiastic with every name.

    “See. We do have auction-worthy bachelors in Sanctuary Ridge, and none more so than Tom Bainbridge.” Brenda tossed the remains of her vetoed banner at the closed door and smiled. Throwing her Winter Dreams idea at Tom was going to be more satisfying than throwing imaginary rotten fruit. She couldn’t wait to see his face.

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  3. "Who's he?" Sammi pointed at the window.

    "Who?"

    "The hot guy in the pin-striped suit freezing his butt off across the street, but improving my morale by the second."

    Brenda peered out the window. Sammi was so right. The tall, lightly muscled ginger-haired man striding through a foot of snow on the unshoveled sidewalk took her breath away. Compared to him, alll the single men in town looked like...losers. Even Tom. And this guy was walking towards her office building.

    Two minutes and twenty-eight seconds later, He crossed the threshold of the Town Council.

    "Bloody awful snow. Doesn't anyone know how to shovel around here," he said in a British accent, stamping his feet to dislodge the snow from his wingtips.

    Their mouths hung open as they took in his big, brown eyes, his firm jaw, the adorable way his hair flopped over his forehead. He looked to be in his early thirties and HE WASN'T WEARING A WEDDING RING.

    She regained her voice. "Welcome to Sanctuary Ridge. I'm--I'm Brenda. And this is Sammi." She'd couldn't remember their last names.

    He glanced at her and then at Sammi. "Oh, dreadfully sorry. A bit caught up in the drama of the moment. Snow melting in my shoes, you understand?"

    Sammi nodded so much that she looked like one of those bobbing dogs that Ernie Paisley had on the dashboard of his old Buick.

    He smiled. "I'm Augustine Millington. Solicitor from London. And now stranded here. Airplane problems. They're bringing in another plane tomorrow morning, so I have to stay overnight in your charming...um...village. I tried to get a room at your village's only hotel. Unfortunately, there is a CPA convention, boring lot, and there are no rooms to be let. I thought I'd ask if there were any other places to stay."

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  4. I did the August Millington excerpt. Karen K.

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  5. Brenda looked at Sammi, but she knew that it was hopeless. Sammi's glamorous, roomy contemporary home was torn up from top to bottom by a massive painting and papering project. Augustine would be lucky to get a length of plywood across two sawhorses for a bed--hardly the stuff of Yankee hospitality.
    She hesitated, then touched his pinstriped sleeve lightly for a second, noticing the fine quality of the wool and the understated Rolex he wore on his wrist. "I have a guest room you're welcome to use. We can walk over to my house now, and you can settle in. I'll need to get back to work though."
    She caught the flicker of surprise in Sammi's eyes. There hadn't been a man in the house since Brett had been killed in the avalanche five years ago. (Italics)--Brett, oh Brett. (Close italics.)
    Augustine's expression was one of pure relief. He must be tired; the shadows under his eyes and the slight droop of his broad shoulders were giving him away. "If it's no trouble--I'll pay you whatever the hotel would have charged, of course."
    "No prob. Let me just get my parka." She grabbed her coat and purse and led him out through the side door and down the sidewalk. As she slipped a little on the ice, he caught her arm, and she was astonished and guilty to feel the tingle, even through her winter clothing.
    (Italics) It's just the accent. We don't get many Brits here in Sanctuary Ridge. (Close italics.)
    She didn't realize it then, but it was going to be more than just the accent--much more. Elizabeth Palladino (who never writes contemporary--lol)

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  6. "Call me August" said my soon-to-be houseguest as we walked briskly to the house. I'd caught a whiff of a masterful cologne that made me a little weak in the knees, but August had tucked my hand in the crook of his arm as we walked, so I was good.

    We chatted until we got to the driveway, and that's when I spotted my little Nissan had a flat. I'd thought it was getting a bit low, but obviously the pressure of organizing the event had kept me from noticing just how low.

    I flipped open my cell and, regrettably, punched in Tom's number. I glanced at the time and realized I didn't have much time before I'd need to dress for dinner.

    "Tom. Brenda. Listen, I hate to ask, but my car's got a flat. Can you pick me up for dinner? It will, uh, give us a bit more time to chat about some of the, er, great ideas I've got."

    Tom said sure, so I flipped the phone shut.

    I smiled, distracted, "Let me get you upstairs and show you around. There are fresh towels, and you can feel free to raid the fridge, or try the little place on the corner - they've got great steak. Sorry to be abrupt, but I have to get ready for a business dinner."

    He assured me I shouldn't worry, and he seemed pleasantly surprised at the guest room which was done in shades of grey and maroon - nothing frilly. He was getting settled, and said he'd take a quick "rinse off", which left me free for my own shower.

    Forty-five minutes later I was really late, and still wrapped in my bathrobe when I ran downstairs for a seltzer to dab on the small stain I had gotten on my blouse. I ran into the kitchen, and smacked into August, who was wrapped in a towel, and we both collapsed in a half-naked heap on the floor, arms and legs intriguingly tangled.

    Perhaps my sputtering and August's apologies was why I didn't hear the doorbell. Or the door open, or the footsteps.

    I heard the voice though.

    "Gee, sorry to interrupt the fun and games."

    Tom was standing in the doorway, his brow cocked and his expression one of - could that be interest?

    "Oh. Hi. Tom. You're early."

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  7. My earlier fantasy came to fruition. As he stood there looking down at me, Tom was speechless. I just hadn’t planned on him seeing me tangled up on the kitchen floor with a handsome stranger with only a robe and a towel between us as the image of me that would render him silent. But there we were. His hairy hard chest was in my face, God love it. I detected the scent of soap and the remnants of a musky cologne that calmed my senses. Being very ticklish, I stifled a giggle when I felt Augusts’ hands roving over my robe trying to hold on to his towel. I was dying of embarrassment twice at the shock of being this close to the sexy August and having Tom watch the antics. For a brief moment I wished I could split myself in two, so I could enjoy fumbling around the floor with August and flash Tom just for the thrill or it.

    August pulled his arms out from underneath me, and held on to his towel tightly while he rose to his feet.

    “Are you all right?” He asked me. He paid no attention to Tom watching us, which I found to be very chivalrous and it quite frankly floored me. I laughed aloud at my own thoughts since I was already on the floor and didn’t have far to go to be further floored. I could sense Tom looking at me bewildered.

    “I’m fine. Just in shock a bit.” I wrapped the robe around me which had flown open when we hit the floor.

    As I started to sit up they both approached me putting their arms out. “I’ll help you up,” said Tom reaching out.

    “No I’ll get her,” said August as took my other hand.

    I rose to my feet with both of them lifting me. Tom had my right hand, and August had my left. Now I was speechless. I cleared my throat and adjusted my robe again.

    “Tom, this is Augustine Millington. There’s a big CPA convention in town, the hotel’s filled up and he needed a place to stay overnight… so I’m letting him stay here. Just extending some Sanctuary Ridge hospitality.”

    “Hello, August Millington,” he waved. “I’d rather be dressed before shaking hands.”

    “Hi there,” Tom waved back. “Tom Bainbridge, me too. I’ll wait in the living room for you Brenda.”

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